Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
|Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts|
|Publisher(s)||Microsoft Game Studios|
|Genre(s)||Action-adventure, vehicle construction|
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is an action-adventure video game developed by Rare and published by Microsoft Game Studios. The fifth title in the Banjo-Kazooie series, it was released for the Xbox 360 worldwide in November 2008 (and was later released in Japan the following month). The game takes place eight years after the events of Banjo-Tooie, and marks the return of series antagonist Gruntilda, who plans to take over Spiral Mountain. To defeat Gruntilda, series protagonists Banjo and Kazooie must compete in a set of vehicle-based challenges.
The game mostly revolves around vehicle construction, in which the player must design custom vehicles including automobiles, motorbikes, boats and aeroplanes. Gameplay itself is centred on completing a series of challenges depending on the specific vehicle, although some parts of the game retain platforming traits. Development of the game first began as a remake of the original Banjo-Kazooie, although a game which involved "more traditional platforming" was conceptualised. Eventually, the project evolved into a construction-oriented game which was inspired by connecting Lego blocks.
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts received generally positive reviews upon release. Critics were largely divided over the concept of vehicle-oriented gameplay, though some critics praised its mechanics and innovation. The game sold a total of 140,000 units by the end of 2008 in the United States. The game has also achieved "Platinum Hits" status, which means it sold at least 400,000 units during its first nine months of release. In 2010, the game was included as one of the titles in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die. The game is also included in the Rare Replay retrospective compilation, released for the Xbox One in 2015.
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts primarily revolves around vehicle construction; the player must construct their own vehicles after collecting specific vehicle parts. In contrast to its predecessors, there are no conventional "moves" for Banjo and Kazooie to use, apart from melee attacks Kazooie performs with her spanner. The game's hub world is Showdown Town, which contains various portals that lead to five worlds and, at the end of the game, Spiral Mountain. Each world contains six "acts", different settings for the world that include different challenges and characters. The key part of the game is to earn "Jiggies" to unlock new worlds and ultimately Spiral Mountain, which contains the final boss.
The centre of Showdown Town houses the Lord of Games' factory, which dispenses "game globes" whenever a certain Jiggy total is reached. Placing the globes onto special stands unlocks the game's worlds. Each world features a set of challenges, which vary among races, combat and objectives such as slalom jumping. The game also features vehicular combat; players may equip weapons onto their vehicles for use against opposing vehicles. Players who surpass a challenge's best score will be rewarded with a Trophy; collecting four trophies will earn them an additional Jiggy from Trophy Thomas. Each Jiggy extracted from the levels appears in "Jig-o-Vend" collection units scattered in crates around Showdown Town. The player must vend the Jiggies and physically carry them over to the central "Jiggy Bank" device to affect the total of Jiggies. Showdown Town also houses Mumbo's Motors, a workshop where the player may create and design their own vehicles.
Vehicles play a prominent role in the game, replacing the moves and transformations featured in its predecessors. The vehicles can be built freely by the player from over 1600 different components available, such as body panels, engines, wheels, wings, propellers, fuel tanks and weapons. Vehicle types include automobiles, motorbikes, boats and aeroplanes. To create vehicles, the player must collect vehicle parts and blueprints, which may be found scattered throughout the hub world or earned by winning specific challenges. The player may also purchase preset blueprints and vehicle parts from Humba Wumba in Showdown Town. Players were once able to send and receive blueprints over Xbox Live, but the servers for this have been shut down since.
The game retains some platforming traits; the player may disembark from a vehicle and explore the environment in a manner similar to that of the previous games. On foot the duo can grab ledges, swim underwater, balance on tightropes and perform basic jumps. Kazooie's spanner can also be used as a melee weapon outside of the vehicle, in addition to levitating lopsided vehicles. Banjo and Kazooie have limited attack power and agility on foot at first, but the duo can upgrade their speed, stamina and strength by visiting Boggy's Gym in Showdown Town. Scattered around the game's six worlds are musical notes, which serve as currency for the player to purchase certain items such as blueprints, parts, and access to advanced vehicles. Musical notes vary in value as determined by their colours (gold, silver, or bronze). Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts also featured an online multiplayer mode; players were able to compete in challenges such as races and combat over Xbox Live.
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts features bonus content unlocked through the use of "Stop 'N' Swop", a feature first introduced in the original Banjo-Kazooie. By collecting the six Mystery Eggs and Ice Key in the Xbox Live Arcade re-release of Banjo-Kazooie, players were able to find special vehicle part crates in Nuts & Bolts' overworld, to be used to unlock novelty vehicle parts, such as a disco ball or fuzzy dice. By using the Stop 'N' Swop items in the XBLA version of Banjo-Tooie as well, players who purchased the "[Lord of Games] L.O.G.'s Lost Challenges" DLC gained access to seven additional vehicle blueprints created by fans who won a blueprint design contest held by Rare.
The game takes place eight years following the conclusion of Banjo-Tooie, in which Gruntilda's body was destroyed by Banjo and Kazooie. In the time since, the two have become lazy and out of shape from their lack of adventuring. Gruntilda's detached head returns to her home of Spiral Mountain for revenge, but the three are interrupted by the sudden appearance of the Lord of Games (L.O.G.), the creator of all video games. He decides to settle the conflict between the two by devising a series of worlds and challenges. He uses his powers to give Gruntilda an artificial body and to restore the duo's physical fitness, but not their moves from previous games, claiming that they will not need them.
L.O.G. transports the characters to his headquarters in Showdown Town and starts the contest. The prize is ownership of Spiral Mountain, while the loser must endure eternal hardship at L.O.G.'s video game factory. As Banjo and Kazooie seek to win by completing the challenges, Gruntilda uses her powers and abilities to try to stop the duo, with a cat named Piddles and an army of robots assisting her. The game ends with Gruntilda and Banjo participating in a final duel in Spiral Mountain. Banjo and Kazooie destroy all of Gruntilda's vehicles and prepare to fight her on foot, but L.O.G. interrupts, declaring Banjo and Kazooie the winners and deeming further tussle unnecessary. After L.O.G. sends Gruntilda off to work at his video game factory, he rewards Banjo and Kazooie by giving them the deeds to Spiral Mountain and restoring their moves, while Banjo's friends reveal that they have rebuilt his house after its destruction in Banjo-Tooie. Meanwhile, Gruntilda declares that bringing her to the factory was a mistake and vows that she will make her own video game.
According to designer Gregg Mayles, the first idea was to create a remake of the first Banjo-Kazooie for the Xbox 360, and the team's second choice was to involve "more traditional platforming", but they felt that the latter was a "stale" approach and deemed the former too similar to previous titles to have an impact. Ed Bryan revealed that the next idea the team wanted to conceive was a game "where you could build stuff". Initially, Rare co-founder Tim Stamper suggested that game revolve around an "interactive lego set"; the team designed a prototype sandbox which involved the player putting blocks together to create vehicles. According to designer Steve Malpass, the prototype was set in the first level of the cancelled Banjo-Kazooie remake, and the most difficult part of initial designing stages was creating a user interface for players to design vehicles with. Furthermore, Mayles said that understanding how to construct vehicle parts in a three-dimensional space was exceptionally difficult, and making the vehicles playable was a "colossal challenge". While the game was in early development, Mayles hinted at the new direction:
[...]our aim is to take the 3D platform adventuring game into the next generation and do something more than just adding polygons. Some fans look back fondly and want more of the same, but the Banjo of yesteryear has no real place in tomorrow's market on the Xbox 360. What we want to do is retain all the elements that made the first two games so loved, but also try things that breathe new life into a genre that has sadly been neglected for many years.
Designer Justin Cook revealed in an interview with PC Zone that the then-untitled project was in designing stages, with the entire core team from the original Banjo-Kazooie giving it full-time attention. During development, Mayles asserted that getting the in-game editor powerful enough to ensure that players could build "what they liked". For re-designing the characters of Banjo and Kazooie, Mayles and Bryan were tasked with finding a suitable way to update the two characters. Initially, they designed high-resolution characters for the protagonists, but Bryan recalled that they lacked "the charm" the original game held. Later during development, Bryan suggested that the characters in the game should appear cuboid, and thus finalised the designs with smooth edges, whilst retaining the two characters' original appearances. Due to the game revolving around the theme of construction, the team went to lengths to ensure that the game's aesthetics look like "everything was constructed" with patchwork, to give the illusion that "everything was patched together". Mayles said that all of the voice-work from the characters were performed in-house by Rare staff; Banjo-Kazooie lead programmer Chris Sutherland reprised his role of voicing Banjo and Kazooie.
The music was composed by Robin Beanland, Grant Kirkhope and Dave Clynick. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts was the final Rare game worked on by Kirkhope, a Rare employee since 1995. The soundtrack is orchestrated and features both remastered arrangements of existing music from the series, and new pieces entirely. The music was performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The game's soundtrack was later released on Amazon and iTunes by the label Sumthing Else.
A downloadable add-on for Nuts & Bolts, titled "L.O.G.'s Lost Challenges", was released on 7 April 2009. The content is set in the "Test-o-Track" area of Mumbo's Motors, and includes six new missions with twelve additional Jiggies to earn: six for completing the missions with pre-determined vehicles, and six for completing the missions with vehicles designed by the player. Collecting all twelve Jiggies will unlock "Hero Klungo Sssavesss Teh Universsse", a set of new levels for the "Hero Klungo Sssavesss Teh World" minigame. The add-on also includes seven new multiplayer game types. "L.O.G.'s Lost Challenges" is also included as part of the game's Rare Replay release for the Xbox One.
The game received a moderately positive reception from critics. Some of the community criticized the game for not featuring certain key elements found in previous games but the game eventually received positive reviews later on. According to Rare, the early reception was "expected". The game received mostly positive reviews from critics upon release. It holds an average score of 79/100 at Metacritic, based on an aggregate of 71 reviews. The vehicular-based mechanics of the game were met with scepticism from many reviewers. Tom Bradwell of Eurogamer criticised the overall design of vehicles and the lack of traditional platforming as "unfair", alongside citing a "weak mission design". Ben Reeves of Game Informer stated that the mission structure was a "mixed bag", asserting that racing was largely repetitive and "derivative". Tom McShea of GameSpot praised the variety of the mission structure and vehicle building, stating that each "problem" requires creative thinking and innovation. However, McShea criticised the controls and physics of some of the vehicles, thus adding difficulty to the overall experience. Sterling McGarvey of GameSpy called Rare's decision to "move the emphasis away from platforming" and toward creation as bold, but criticised the game's mechanics and manoeuvrability of land-based vehicles, although he noted that aeroplanes and helicopters were easy to utilise. McGarvey furthermore criticised the manoeuvrability of vehicles, stating that it was overall frustrating on how much the game relied on the awkward mechanics.
Brad Shoemaker of Giant Bomb praised the driving mechanics and vehicle construction, despite initially being frustrated with the game's controls. Shoemaker praised the innovation the game offered, stating that the vehicle-building and enormous variety of mission types would attract all audiences. A reviewer of GamesRadar heavily criticised the overall mechanics and vehicular gameplay, to be both "ridiculously complicated" and unsuitable for a Banjo game. The reviewer of GamesRadar also criticised Rare's "old habit" of "collect-a-thons", asserting that all the elements of the game were "clumsily put together" and the aspects of unlocking new levels were difficult to understand due to the many items that were pre-required. Andrew Reiner of Game Informer heralded the vehicle construction as "fun", but criticised Rare's "habit of forcing the player" to collect large quantities of items to build their vehicles and progress through the game. A reviewer of GameTrailers similarly criticised the vehicular theme of the game, citing that the sensitive physics and controls adds up to an overall frustrating experience. Erik Brudvig of IGN US praised the game's absence of platform elements, and asked fans of Banjo-Kazooie not to "write the game off" due to its change in genre. Brudvig also heralded the vehicle-creation as "powerful" and the depth of the game's mechanics. Matt Wales of IGN UK criticised the new direction of the game's genre, summarising the lack of platforming action as "screwed up". Wales stated that the game's mechanics and vehicle construction "fails badly" due to the lack of "any fundamentally engaging" framework to support the game's creative elements. Tom Orry of VideoGamer praised the complex construction of vehicles and stated that it was the most rewarding aspect of the game. Chris Kohler of Wired heavily criticised the mechanics, challenges and new genre of the game, panning the overall experience as a "disappointing, simplistic sandbox". Kohler also added that the racing missions were "boring" and frustrating, similarly stating the same for vehicle customisation. In a retrospective review, David Roberts of GamesRadar stated that Nuts & Bolts "laid down groundwork" for future games that revolve around construction, such as Fallout 4 and Kerbal Space Program.
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts sold a total of 140,000 units by the end of 2008 in the United States. The game has also achieved "Platinum Hits" status, which means it sold at least 400,000 units during its first nine months of release. The game also surpassed 100,000 units in the United Kingdom. In 2010, the game was included as one of the titles in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.
In 2019, composer Grant Kirkhope acknowledged the game's polarized reception and spoke out, claiming that it is a good game and predates most other games involving construction mechanics, but also thought it should've been its own intellectual property and not involved Banjo-Kazooie.
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- Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts open directory project
- Developer's commentary on Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts